Your dog is part of the family: They are your best friend, they eat your leftovers, and they accompany you on morning walks. But your dog can’t complain, so how do you know when to seek medical help? How can you tell if that limp signifies a sprain, or that sneeze requires an antibiotic?
Learn the warning signs that mean you should take your pet to the vet.
It’s not out of the ordinary for your dog to skip a meal or two, especially if it’s hot outside — but any more than this should be a red flag that something’s off. Two days without eating is a clear sign that your dog needs an examination.
Some diseases cause dogs to develop unusual eating habits. If your dog is usually well-behaved but begins raiding the pantry or garbage, you should take them for a checkup.
It’s important to know about how much water your dog drinks each day. A dog that drinks more water than usual could be developing kidney disease or diabetes. You’ll be able to tell if your dog is drinking too much water if you have to refill the water bowl more than normal, or if they have an excessive amount of urine, need to go outside more often, or have accidents in the house.
A dog’s coat should be thick, shiny, and soft. A coat that’s dull, rough, dry, or has bald patches could indicate that something isn’t right. The wrong kind of food, an allergy, or a skin disease could be the culprit. Either way, a trip to the vet is a must for a questionable coat.
Lethargy is a sign that something may be troubling your dog. A lethargic dog may be uninterested in playing, going for a walk, or participating in activities they usually enjoy. Normal fatigue or sore muscles can sometimes be due to high temperatures, but you should see a vet if symptoms persist for more than two days.
Occasional vomiting isn’t unusual for dogs. Animals may vomit to get rid of something that doesn’t agree with them. But some vomiting should concern you. For example, you should call the vet immediately if your dog:
- vomits frequently or several times in a row
- vomits blood
- has a fever
Severe vomiting could also cause dehydration or diarrhea, so seek treatment early.
A dog’s stool is a good indicator of their overall health. A healthy dog will have small, firm, moist stools. Dry, hard stools may be a sign of health maladies, dietary problems, or dehydration. Take your dog to the vet if they have any of these symptoms:
- worms noted in the stool
- diarrhea for more than 24 hours
- blood or mucus in the stool
Even in an overweight dog, sudden weight loss should prompt you to take them to the vet. Losing weight quickly and unexpectedly could indicate a serious health condition. If your dog drops in weight by 10 percent, bring it to your vet’s attention. In small dogs, this may be as little as a 1-pound weight loss.
Cloudy or red eyes, squinting, or excessive discharge from your dog’s eyes could indicate an infection or injury. Make sure you bring your dog for a checkup right away. Diseases affecting the eyes can progress rapidly and cause blindness. Medication can be used to cure an infection or alleviate clinical signs.
If your dog is scooting or dragging her rear on the floor, she may have worms, blocked or infected anal glands, urinary tract infection, or diarrhea.
Take your dog to the vet or an emergency vet clinic if they show any of the following symptoms:
- open wounds or possibly broken bones, such as from being hit by a car or other trauma
- stopped breathing or unconsciousness
- repeated vomiting or vomiting blood
- sudden collapse or difficulty breathing
- bleeding from their mouth, nose, or eyes
- possible poisoning from eating something toxic
- extreme pain, seen as whining or shaking
- hard and swollen abdomen
Due to a dog’s survival instinct, they will work to appear healthy on the outside. It’s important as a pet owner to be observant and aware of the subtlest changes. You know your dog better than anyone, so if something seems wrong, take them to the veterinarian for a checkup.